Kenya Itinerary (short trip)

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Oct 4th, 2004, 08:20 PM
  #1
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Kenya Itinerary (short trip)

I'd like to get some itinerary suggestions for a possible short trip in February 2005. We'll have a total of 6 nights with our first night spent in Nairobi as our flight doesn't arrive until evening. So we have 5 nights to work with and a full final day as our flight departs NBO at 10:30pm. Our original thinking was 3 nights Masai Mara and 2 night Amboseli. Does that sound like a good plan or is there something else we should be considering? I've also looked at other itineraries on various safari sites that go to the Mountain Lodge/Lake Nakuru/Masai Mara or Masai Mara/Lake Nakuru/Amboseli. Would these be too hectic and ambitious? It seems like the distances in between are fairly long. Can anyone give me an idea of the travel time? Would we be better off just choosing one location and staying put? Are there significant differences in the wildlife to make it worthwhile to move around?

Some additional questions... I posted another question earlier on weather in late February. Is this a good time of year for game viewing? Is it buggy? What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of choosing a camp vs a lodge? This will be our first trip.

I'd really appreciate any comments, suggestions, input. Thanks.
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Oct 4th, 2004, 09:05 PM
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I wanted to add that we're on a limited budget and would like to keep the arrangements for the 5 nights to no more than $2000 for the 2 of us. I've been looking at www.2afrika.com and www.go2africa.com - they both seem to have reasonable prices that would fit our budget. Are there other tour operators that I should also be looking at? We'd like to stay in mid-range comfortable lodges/camps, nothing luxurious but not basic camping either.
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Oct 5th, 2004, 06:17 AM
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Patty - In response to your inquiry:

>>other itineraries on various safari sites that go to the Mountain Lodge/Lake Nakuru/Masai Mara or Masai Mara/Lake Nakuru/Amboseli. Would these be too hectic and ambitious? It seems like the distances in between are fairly long. Can anyone give me an idea of the travel time?<<

You asked the right questions about the above combinations - these would be hectic to cover in only 5-days. I think your initial idea of Amboseli and the Masai Mara will give you "a taste of Kenya" and after visting these two areas, will, no doubt, want to return for a longer trip in the future.

Distances are great, roads are not the best and often bumpy and dusty, but to save money, driving is your best option and also gives you a feel for the landscapes and people.

I would suggest that the morning after arrival you drive to Amboseli where you can spend 2-days. One of the regular posters to this board has been recommending Ol Tukai Lodge, which has recently been refurbished with a very attentive staff and good service. Alternatives are the Sopa Amboseli Lodge, or Serena Amboseli Lodge. Then after breakfast 2nd day at Amboseli you can return to Nairobi, have lunch at The Carnivore Restaurant. Then continue to the Masai Mara. This is a long 5-hr drive, where you should arrive to enjoy the late afternoon game drive. Here it would be nice to stay at a moderately priced tented camp - offering you the opportunity to sleep "under canvas" - a true African experience. You can consider the Sarova Camp, or Intrepids Camp. Alternatives would be the Serena Mara Lodge or the Sopa Lodge.

If you select two properties from the same chain - as example, both Sopas or both Serenas you will likely get a better price. However, I'm not all that pleased where the Sopa is located - outside the Mara park boundry and long rides each time you go on a game drive.

From the Mara, you can return drive to Nairobi, or splurge for a flight back, about $120/pp. Then arrange to have driver to take you to some sights - Karen Blixen Home, Giraffe Center, do some shopping, have "sundowners" on terrace at the Norfolk Hotel, maybe even a light dinner before heading to airport for your homebound flight.

You can also do these days in reverse, going to the Mara first, then to Amboseli.

You can contact:

[email protected] or
[email protected]

attn: Joyce or Pummy and ask for a proposal. Both the same company, but sometimes one or the other address doesn't go thru, so send to one and copy to the other address. You can, if you wish, mention that Sandi in NYC suggested you contact them.

Another company to contact is Southern Cross Safaris located in Mombasa who has handled itineraries for another regular poster (Jan) to this board.

Let us know what you come up with.
 
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Oct 5th, 2004, 09:50 AM
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Thanks for your comments and suggestions, sandi. You confirmed what I was initially thinking about the other itineraries - too much time spent traveling from lodge to lodge and too many one nighters.

Re: Amboseli + Masai Mara - I received an email reply from an agent at go2africa.com and she indicated that it was not possible to travel between the 2 parks by road in one day. Perhaps she meant it was not a good idea. In any case, it does seem like it would be a very long day. If I add the option of a one way flight, would it be possible to do it this way - on day 3 drive from Amboseli back to Nairobi in the morning and fly to Masai Mara in the afternoon? Is the vehicle that drives you to/from Nairobi, the same vehicle that is used on the game drives (I am not familiar with how this works)? If so, that may present a logistical problem.

Are you familiar with the Siana Springs camp?

What do you think of just staying in the Mara for 4 nights and returning to Nairobi for the final evening?

I will check out those other companies you mentioned. Thanks.
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Oct 5th, 2004, 10:40 AM
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I would recommend spending the entire safari in the Masai Mara, which is, in my opinion, together with the Serengeti, the best national park in Africa. I found Amboseli to be average, with much, much less wildlife than the Mara. Also, with such a short period in which to travel, I would recommend not spending an entire day traveling -- that day could be better spend game viewing. I think it would be much less hectic to focus on one park if that park is the Mara, and if you want to visit two parks, I would recommend Amboseli and Tsavo which are much closer to each other and you won't need a full day to transfer. But as among the three, the Mara is my favorite.

Michael
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Oct 5th, 2004, 10:48 AM
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Patty, just to add another tour operator . I am also planning my first safari in Kenya and the best price I got for the itinerary I chose (with all lodges and camps I chose) was from Sun Trek Safaris. It was about 200 USD less pp than the least expensive of all I requested ( and I made a request to about some 8/9 tour operators). Some asked me 700 USD more for the same safari (same lodges, same in everything).
Try this one.
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Oct 5th, 2004, 10:53 AM
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Oops, forgot to say Sun Trek Safaris got great raves here at Fodors.
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Oct 5th, 2004, 11:24 AM
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With limited time, it's difficult to say what you would best enjoy. Yes the trip between Amboseli and the Mara is long but doable - I've seen some itineraries from well-known operators with longer drives. One-way flights aren't that expensive, from about $90 Amboseli to $120 Mara; if this works with your budget then it's definitely something to consider.

Michael's (thit_cho) suggestion of visiting Tsavo and Amboseli is excellent, but would you be disappointed in not having visited the Mara. And of course, you can just visit the Mara, but would you be disappointed in not visiting another reserve. Unfortunately you're limited in time.

Re Siana Springs - located outside the Sekenani Gate to the Mara (NE corner) and night drives may be done here, but on a daily basis it's a long drive into and from the reserve in the morning and afternoons/evenings. FYI - Siana Springs and Mara Intrepids are owned by the same company, but Intrepids is located inside the reserve in a pretty good spot near the Mara River.

As to vehicles being used for road transfers and game drives - if doing an all-drive safari, the same guide/driver and vehicle are with you throughout. If you use some flights in between, you will have separate guides & vehicles at other camps/lodges.

go2africa is a reputable company based in SA and contracts their work to a local Kenyan outfitter. That is the reason I recommended the two companies I did and 'tere' gave you another in-country outfitter to consider.

See what these companies recommend on how to best use your few days and prices.
 
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Oct 5th, 2004, 12:22 PM
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Thank you all for your very helpful replies!

The suggestion of Amboseli + Tsavo sounds like an interesting option that I hadn't considered before.

Can you tell me how long it takes to travel from Amboseli to Tsavo and from Tsavo back to Nairobi? How would you recommend splitting the stay (how many nights in each park)? Is there a moderately priced lodge or camp that you would recommend in Tsavo? How does the wildlife viewing in Tsavo compare to the Mara and is there any specific wildlife that can be seen in one park and not the other?
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Oct 5th, 2004, 05:01 PM
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Patty:

Amboseli and Tsavo would be perfect for you in February. It should be dry season again and there should be lots of animals in both places.

You could stay at Ol Tukai Lodge in Amboseli for 1 or two nights and then drive to Tsavo. I always go to Tsavo East and it is about a three hour drive from Amboseli, driving through Tsavo West first. The drive from Tsavo to Nairobi is about 7 hours.

An excellent place to stay in Tsavo East is Satao Camp, a tented camp about 15 - 20 miles from Aruba Dam. If tenting isn't your style then you could stay at Voi Lodge, an older lodge with a gorgeous view. The rooms are small and the bathrooms could use a little sprucing up when I was there last, but it is comfortable.

Tsavo is a wonderful park. There aren't that many tourists and minivans to put up with and normally you will see lions (the man-eaters of Tsavo), cheetahs, perhaps a leopard (but not always), buffalo, zebra, giraffe, topi, gazelle, impala, dik dik and usually lots of elephants. I am planning on being at Satao Camp the beginning of February so perhaps we'll meet up!

Jan
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Oct 6th, 2004, 01:37 PM
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Thanks for your comments, Jan. I read a few of your trip reports and the idea of very few tourists is appealing. What's the issue with the snakes though? Is it because of the location of the camp? Are they poisonous snakes? How long are you staying this time? Our trip is scheduled for the last week in February.
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Oct 7th, 2004, 10:39 AM
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I received quotes back this morning from 2 of the 3 tour operators that were recommended here. I?d appreciate some feedback on the lodging options that they offered.

Tsavo:
Severin Safari Camp
Kilaguni Lodge

Masai Mara:
Sarova Mara Camp

In addition, I also received quotes for Mara Intrepids and Siana Springs which were mentioned here earlier. Mara Intrepids priced out significantly higher and I?m wondering if it?s worth the extra cost. Sarova seems like a very large camp with 75 tents, is it too big? Are there other camps I should inquire about? Thanks.
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Oct 7th, 2004, 12:34 PM
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Patty:

I'm not really sure what it is with the snakes. My gut reaction is that because Tsavo is usually very hot and humid the snakes may well be trying to find shade and coolness or trying to get the many birds in and around the camp. There are poisonous snakes there, but luckily no-one has ever been bitten. The men at camp are marvelous. They know I am terrified of snakes and they are always around looking to find anything before I see it. They even gave me a wooden whistle in August I could blow if I saw anything and they would come running. I never needed to use it though.
Tsavo is wonderful and so is Satao. You are approximately 30 - 40 miles away from any lodge or tented camp. Two weeks ago there were seven lions at the borehole. The only time you don't see much in the way of game is right after the rains. It is so hard to understand how so many huge animals can disappear to quickly! I have never been to Tsavo West. I understand the terrain is entirely different, rocky and hilly. Tsavo East is flat savannah and bush. I don't know for sure, but I would guess you'd see more animals in Tsavo East (anyone please correct me if I'm wrong). I'll be at Satao the second week in February. I know you would love it. Everyone I have met there has fallen in love with it, and many return.

Jan
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Oct 7th, 2004, 12:38 PM
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One more question, does Tsavo warrant more time than Amboseli? I initially asked for quotes based on 2 nights each but am wondering if I should split it 3 (Tsavo) and 1 (Amboseli). There's a bewildering number of choices even for such a short trip and I'm having a difficult time deciding!
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Oct 7th, 2004, 04:12 PM
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Patty:

You're asking me a very difficult question my friend, because I love both places.

Amboseli is a small park. The majority of the game tends to be in the area of the swamps (elephants, lions, zebra, hyena, wildebeests and perhaps cheetah also).

Tsavo is huge, larger than the State of Michigan and the game isn't always close together. Thus you will drive farther looking for it.

What you might want to consider is two days at Amboseli, the third day you'll drive from Ambo to Tsavo (seeing some game on the way), spend two days at Tsavo and then fly from Mombasa to Nairobi (two hour drive from Buchuma Gate to Moi Airport in Mombasa.

I don't think you'll need to worry about mosquitos in February. I have been to both places six times and have never had a mosquito problem. Do be sure to bring an antimalarial though just in case.

Jan
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Oct 8th, 2004, 11:37 AM
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Patty, two other places you should consider in Masai Mara when asking for quotes would be the Mara Serena Lodge , which I read here and in other guides has a great location and Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp.They will be about the same price as the Sarova Mara Camp .Take a look at these two options on the web and if you like them ask them to quote both in the itinerary for you. Before I asked for a quote to tour agents I chose the lodges/camps where I wanted to stay at after sugestions of many people here on Fodors. Try and do this.
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Oct 8th, 2004, 01:21 PM
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Tere,
Thanks for the additional suggestions. When is your trip? Did you book with Sun Trek Safaris? I've asked for quotes again substituting some of the camps and am waiting to hear back.
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Oct 8th, 2004, 09:16 PM
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Hi Patty / Tere:

I'm one of the people who raved about Suntrek, they were great reasonably prices & provided fantastic service. I did everyting from Canada with them via e-mail and it exceeded my expectations.

My travelogue with a few pictures is at http://travel.masterpiece-cs.com

Z
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Oct 8th, 2004, 11:51 PM
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Patty:
Yes, I am booking with Sun Treck . They have been extremely nice in the emails we have exchanged and offered me a better quote than any other tour operator. My trip will be only in August 2005 but as it is high season I am booking far ahead. If you choose to go to Amboseli also you should consider Tortilis Camp, which looks great.

Travelmaster:
Thank you for your feedback. I guess you were one of the persons who raved about Suntreck Safaris when I did a search here at Fodors. I am glad everything went ok with you . I am going to check your site with the travelogue and pictures. Thanks.
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Oct 9th, 2004, 12:19 AM
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Travelmaster:

I just read your travelogue and saw your pictures (lovely). It's great, the way you describe your trip is fantastic. I am doing almost the same itinerary as you, with the exception of Samburu. I will also be staying at Mount Kenya Serena Lodge, at the Lake Nakuru Lodge (did you like this one?) and then in Masai Mara but will be staying at Mara Serena Lodge and Kicwba Tembo. Then I will go some days to Zanzibar. I have been also emailing with Sultana, who has been very kind and professional, providing me every information I need.
Anyway, your travelogue has helped me have a first glance of what my safari will be like. Thanks for sharing
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